Shortly before Christmas, I stumbled upon the Critical Drinker, a YouTube critic mostly of films, but he critiques books at times, too. The Drinker is Will Jordan, author of Redemption: Ryan Drake 1. I’ve watched several of his videos for both the entertainment and insight in to how movies were constructed or, in many cases, how they were poorly constructed. As a writer, he comments on character development, plot and other aspects of story building.
His dissection of the three recent Star Wars movies is brutal. I am a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy – Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – and his critiques tell me the new movies are ones I never want to see. In fact, they should be burnt. The stories trampled over our heroes of the past and are extremely disrespectful to their legacy. While I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, I had an inkling of what was to come.
My Experience with this Trilogy
A few years ago, my family was watching The Force Awakens. I walked into the room, watched for several minutes, thinking I’d watch this movie in its entirety later, and then someone said, “You won’t like this movie.” Not knowing why, I asked. “Han Solo gets killed,” said my son. I walked away and never looked back.
Han Solo is my hero, the swashbuckler I strive to be. He’s one reason I write adventure stories. He was the basis of a short novel I wrote in high school. Today’s pathetic writers will never kill him or tarnish his character.
Back to the Critical Drinker
The Drinker’s dissection of the main character, Mary Sue, I mean Rey Skywalker-Wannabe, has encouraged me to take a closer look at the main characters in my fantasy novels. Are they a Mary Sue, a perfect character who can do no wrong?
One indication a character is this flawed piece of perfection is their wins vs their losses. In the beginning, the main character is never supposed to win, or at least they lose more than they win. Half way through the story, the wins start to balance out the losses. In the end, the character wins.
That’s a generalisation of a character arc. However, if the character wins at everything and the credits roll, there’s a problem. The first box for being a Mary Sue is ticked.
Wins vs Losses
I created a file that lists the wins and losses of my main characters to keep them obvious. The first character I analysed was Isla of Maura and her role in Shadows in the Stone. I added major life changing events because while the character often wasn’t the cause of them, they play a pivotal role in her success and she reaps their benefits.
- #1 Isla falls under the protection of Alaura of Niamh.
- #2 Isla becomes Bronwyn Darrow’s ward and a member of a loving family.
- #4 Isla befriends Tam, one of the bandits who kidnapped her.
- #5 Isla successfully leaves behind clues and pages from her book to lead her das to her.
- #6 Isla saves Bronwyn’s life when he is stabbed by Keiron.
- #7 Isla saves Tam’s life when he is shot in the chest with an arrow. She uses her knowledge of healing herbs, gained through Alaura, to help her heal him. Her confidence rising, she defies Keiron Ruckle and doesn’t get slapped for it.
- #8 Isla releases the souls trapped inside the gnome, Reese.
- #1 Isla’s meeme dies, and her das steals and sells the medallion Catriona gave to her at birth.
- #2 Isla loses the race to the Great Oak when Liam Jenkin tackles her.
- #3 Isla loses her best friend, Liam, when his das is killed and he leaves Maskil.
- #4 Isla is kidnapped by bandits, including her das Kieron Ruckle, who half-starves and beats her. He emotionally torments her and threatens her life and that of those she loves. She is fearful of him and doesn’t challenge him. At one point, she verbally defends Bronwyn, saying he is her real das, but Keiron punches her.
- #5 Isla is rescued by Bronwyn, but they are tracked down by Keiron and the bandits, and she is recaptured.
- #6 She fails to be rescued and can’t help herself or Tam when he is entrapped in a tree, and she falls to the mercy of Merk Lindrum.
With a quick glance, I see Isla has lost several times, and life has not been kind to her. In this instance, she is not a Mary Sue. Isla’s lists are small in this book because she is not a main character. Bronwyn and Alaura are. However, she plays a pivotal role in the novel, and her future in the series is vital. Her development in this book helps build her character for future books.
Please NOTE: The Critical Drinker uses language that others might find offensive. However, it is softened by the awesome Scottish accent and humour. If you love hearing reviews on recently released movies (the occasional TV show and books), check him out.